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Monday Mop-Up Duty: A Pirate for Life?

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CINCINNATI – Andrew McCutchen is looking very much like a back-to-back MVP isn’t he? How he rose to the occasion not once, but twice, on Saturday night in Cincinnati was remarkable even for such a great player. You can make the argument he’s not only the most talented player in the National League but the best value.

On Sunday we examined where McCutchen’s surplus value ranks among starting All-Stars. McCutchen ranked first among NL All-Stars and third among all All-Stars, trailing only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. (Surplus value is a player’s actual wages subtracted from the actual value he produces).

He’s a rare talent with one of the most club-friendly deals in the sport. I think you can make the argument that it’s the best value contract in the history of Pittsburgh professional sports.

McCutchen projects to produce 29.3 million in surplus value in 2014 – and some $110 million over the course of the contract.

In Sunday’s story was an interesting quote from Pirates GM Neal Huntington:

We truly hope Andrew McCutchen retires as a Pirate. That is going to be incredibly challenging to do, but that is our long-term goal,” Huntington said. “The contracts are always a challenge. If a player gets hurt or under-performs, there is no recourse for the club, but when the player drastically out-performs the contract, there is a lot of heat and attention. ‘Why don’t you extend him longer?’ I’m sure there will come a point in time for us to revisit it as it will with other players we signed to multi-year deals.”

If the Pirates want McCutchen to retire a Pirate now might be the time to act, now they have leverage. McCutchen cannot become a free agent under after the 2018 season. The Pirate have four more years of control remaining.

Could the Pirates’ leverage their control to extend McCutchen? Even if they could, would they really even want to buy his 32-38 seasons?

Maybe Evan Longoria‘s second contract with Tampa be a road map for McCutchen.

Just days into his major-league career, Longoria signed a deal that gave up to nine years of control to the Tampa Bay Rays. After the 2012 season, with the Rays still holding three years of control over Longoria, the Rays and Longoria agreed to a new 10-year, $135-million contract with Longoria. Would McCutchen accept a new contract, say, a Longoria contract adjusted for inflation: a 10-year, $150 million deal?

It might worth exploring.

You could argue the Pirates already own McCutchen’s prime, his seasons through his age 31 year, and that there’s only risk in adding six years beyond that.

But I think you can also argue that McCutchen might be a good bet to be productive into his mid 30s — he’s a dedicated athlete whose skills (BB walker, oppo power0 are improving — and there’s value in having a face of the franchise star, who not only sells jerseys and gives the organization credibility, but also cultivates a clubhouse culture.

I can see an argument either way but if the Pirates want to keep McCutchen beyond 2018, now is the time to begin talking.

***

Jordy Mercer thinks the Pirates should extend ‘Cutch:

 

STARTING NINE THOUGHTS

9. Not an encouraging start for Francisco Liriano on Sunday. He was not sharp. He walked everyone. He gave up a three-run homer to an unknown rookie. But he did sit 92-94 with his fastball. He hit 88 mph with his slider. We can talk about trade rumors and external matches all we want but the best thing that can happen for the Pirates is for Liriano to pitch like his 2013 self. Remember, he wasn’t healthy to begin this season so perhaps we haven’t seen the best from Liriano. He’s a key to the second half.

The price for quality stating pitching is obscene unless you’re dealing with the Diamondbacks. (I’m shocked the A’s gave up Addison Russell for Jeff Samardzija).

8. While the rest of his non-All-Star teammates are on break, Gerrit Cole will be throwing at PNC Park. He’ll throw off flat ground on Tuesday and Wednesday and is line for a side session on Thursday. He won’t be back until August even if everything goes well. I think the Pirates are being cautious with Cole but two DL stints in a one-month span is never good.

But, hey, it’s not his elbow or shoulder.

7. For what it’s worth, I did approach Pedro Alvarez about his throwing issues following Saturday’s game. Alvarez declined to be questioned ab out his defense.

Alvarez leads baseball with 20 errors and 19 have been throwing errors. And what’s interesting is almost all the errors have come on routine plays where he has time to gather himself and set his feet. When he has more difficult plays, he typically makes the throw without issue. It speaks to this being a psychological issues.

6. Gregory Polanco is human. He entered play Saturday batting .237 in July.

5. I keep waiting for Josh Harrison to get some playing time at shortstop. Want evidence that Harrison is for real? Here’s some more

Harrison ranks 15th in the major leagues in the percentage of at-bats that have ended with hard-hit contact (22.5 percent). That’s ahead of players like Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton and not far behind teammate Andrew McCutchen

He should be a near every day player until he proves this isn’t for real.

4. There’s some trade buzz about Josh Bell.  The Pirates eventually have to move some of their OF assets, right?

3. Billy Hamilton is proving a lot of people wrong. Kid can hit enough to be an impact player.

2. One advantage the Reds have over the Pirates? They are a much better defensive club. The Reds rank 3rd in baseball in defensive efficiency (.726) after ranking 1st last year (.727). The Pirates have dropped from 5th to 11th in baseball (.711). The Reds have only made 39 errors as a team.

1. The Reds and Cardinals are dealing with some significant injuries. The Brewers have come crashing back to earth. The Pirates would be well served to take advantage of this. They have to play much better against the NL Central in the second half of this season.

 

HE SAID IT

“It was a pretty good day at the office” – McCutchen on his Saturday night.

Understated to say the least.

 

STAT OF THE WEEK: 7.4

Updated projected WAR for McCutchen.

 

NON-BASEBALL RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK

David Brooks is one of the best. Interesting read on if life is more like baseball or soccer

- TS

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